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March Madness 2017: Luke Maye’s heroics help UNC beat Kentucky in a classic

Luke Maye releases the shot that put North Carolina in the Final Four. (Justin Ford/USA Today Sports)
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Saturday recap | Friday recap | Tournament essentials

In an instant classic between two of college basketball’s blue bloods, Luke Maye upstaged Malik Monk to help North Carolina knock off Kentucky and secure the final spot in this year’s Final Four.

Maye’s long jumper with 0.3 seconds to play was the difference in the top-seeded Tar Heels’ 75-73 win over the second-seeded Wildcats in the South Region final in Memphis. It came less than 10 seconds after Monk, one of Kentucky Coach John Calipari’s dazzling freshmen, tied the game with a three-pointer from the top of the key over Maye’s outstretched arm.

For North Carolina, it’s another Maye day

“I just shot it like I do every day in practice,” Maye, who set a career-high with 17 points, told CBS’s Tracy Wolfson of his game-winning shot.

Maye, who joined some elite company with his last-second heroics to clinch a spot in the Final Four, was named the South Region’s most outstanding player.

“I’m the guy that wanted him to come as a walk-on, so how dumb am I?” said North Carolina Coach Roy Williams, whose Tar Heels advance to play Oregon in Glendale, Ariz., on Saturday.

Maye’s career game overshadowed a career-high 12 points from Kentucky sophomore Isaac Humphries, whose jumper with 5:12 to play gave the Wildcats a 64-59 lead. One week after closing their second-round win over Arkansas on a 12-0 run to overcome a late deficit, the Tar Heels responded with another 12-0 run.

North Carolina (31-7) took a 71-64 lead with 54 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws by Theo Pinson before Monk and fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox made consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead to one.

Fox, who scored an NCAA tournament freshman record 39 points in Friday’s win over UCLA, was hampered by foul trouble in the first half and finished with only 13 points on 5 of 14 shooting. Monk finished with 12 points for Kentucky (32-6). North Carolina’s Justin Jackson led all scorers with 19 points, while Tar Heels center Kennedy Meeks had 7 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.

Before this weekend, Oregon, Gonzaga and South Carolina had combined for one trip to the Final Four. North Carolina will be making its 20th.

South Carolina beats Florida to advance to its first Final Four

South Carolina used a stifling second-half defense to beat Florida, 77-70, in Madison Square Garden and complete its status as this year’s Cinderella team, advancing to next week’s Final Four for the first time in school history with its third come-from behind victory of the NCAA tournament.

South Carolina’s improbable run heads into the Final Four

Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish wept in the stands and even their own fans stared in delirious disbelief as the Gamecocks celebrated. “It’s all these guys,” Coach Frank Martin told CBS. “They’ve been with us for a while. They believe in each other, they put up with me and go out and do it better the next day. They have the courage of a lion.”

The defense was too much for the Gators, who, after hitting seven three-pointers in the first half, had zero in the second half as South Carolina went with an extended zone. And then there was Sindarius Thornwell, who may have been SEC player of the year, but was hardly a household name elsewhere — until the NCAA tournament began. On Sunday, he had 26 points and South Carolina, a school that had only four total NCAA tournament wins in its history, completed its fourth in 10 days.

Next up for the Gamecocks, a No. 7 seed, is a matchup with Gonzaga in a semifinal.

For most of the first half of the SEC teams’ game, it was a tossup as the lead seesawed back and forth. But Florida burst through just before halftime, taking a 40-33 lead into the locker room.

Florida (27-8) came into the game after a magical performance, topping Wisconsin on a one-handed three-point floated that beat the buzzer in overtime Friday night. South Carolina (25-10) hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1973.

Shot-clock blues: Twice in the first five minutes of the game between Florida and South Carolina, the shot clock at Madison Square Garden in New York City malfunctioned. With just under 15 minutes left in the half, finally a new piece of equipment was brought in.

Evidently, either Vladimir Putin or Phil Jackson was to blame.

Hootie in the house! A big South Carolina fan, singer Darius Rucker watched Friday night’s game on TVs onstage during a Hootie and the Blow Fish concert in Charleston. He did better Sunday, scoring prime seating for the Gamecocks’ game against Florida.

Saturday recap

Ducks are flying high, headed to Final Four

Oregon 74, Kansas 60

For the first time in 78 years, Oregon will make an appearance in the Final Four after handily beating top-seeded Kansas in the Midwest Region final.

West Coast bias: Oregon holds off Kansas for first Final Four berth since 1939

Led by the seemingly unstoppable Jordan Bell, who had eight blocks, the Ducks shot 50.9 percent and drilled 11 of 25 three-pointers. But they were able to keep the Jayhawks, who were averaging 96 points per game in their three previous NCAA tournament games, at bay. Kansas shot just 35 percent from the field and missed 20 of 25 three-pointers. Despite the (relatively) low score, the game was intense — even for this referee at one point, who ran so fast he slipped and fell.

The Ducks are now set to face the winner of Sunday’s South Region final between North Carolina and Kentucky.

Bulldogs are Final Four bound

Gonzaga 83, Xavier 59

It wasn’t meant to be for No. 11 seed Xavier, which put up a valiant effort against the West Region’s No. 1-seed Gonzaga, but couldn’t keep up against a very strong offense in the end. The Musketeers fell 83-59 to the Bulldogs, who are advancing to the Final Four for the first time in program history. The heroes of the first half for Gonzaga continued to stoke the fire in the second, with Nigel Williams-Goss and Jonathan Williams leading the team in scoring with 23 and 19 points, respectively.

Gonzaga breaks through at last, earns first trip to Final Four

Xavier, which played without star point guard Edmond Sumner, who’s out with an injury, spread its points around a little more, but shooting 35 percent didn’t help their cause. The Musketeers missed 9 of 22 free throws and connected on just 2 of 16 from three-point range. Gonzaga will face the winner of the East Region final to be played Sunday between Florida and South Carolina in the Final Four.

Friday recap

Buzzer-beater elevates Gators

Florida 84, Wisconsin 83

Florida’s Chris Chiozza saw the improbable three-pointer that Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter used to send the contest into overtime, and he raised it a game-winner. Getting the ball with four seconds left and his team down two, Chiozza went the length of the floor before making a lunging three to win it for his Gators.

No. 4 seed Florida advances to the East Region final to face seventh-seeded South Carolina, in an all-SEC matchup nearly as improbable as the heroics to which fans at Madison Square Garden were treated Friday. A tournament that had lacked a signature moment got two in quick succession, and a night that had largely been lacking in drama, with the previous three Sweet 16 games decided by comfortable margins, received a pair of memorable jolts.

Kentucky races past UCLA

Kentucky 86, UCLA 75

In a battle of expected NBA lottery picks, Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox decisively got the better of his more hyped counterpart, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Fox poured in 39 points, hitting 13 of 20 shots, while helping hold Ball to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, although the Bruins’ freshman added eight assists.

De’Aaron Fox’s record-breaking Sweet 16 placed him among Kentucky’s recent greats

South Carolina’s run continues

South Carolina 70, Baylor 50

South Carolina proved it could get a tournament win outside of its home state. In fact, the seventh-seeded Gamecocks authored a convincing rout, trouncing third-seeded Baylor at Madison Square Garden.

Having already attained its first tournament wins since 1973, South Carolina is now on the verge of reaching its first-ever Final Four, if it can get past the winner of Friday’s other East Region matchup, between No. 4 Florida and No. 8 Wisconsin.

Gamecocks star Sindarius Thornwell led all players with 24 points, but it was his team’s stifling defense that was the story. Even with a size advantage in the frontcourt, the Bears could never get anything going, hitting just 17 of 55 shots, including three of 12 from three-point range.

Little kid asks good question at NCAA tournament press conference, reporter gets upset

Tar Heels blitz Butler

North Carolina 92, Butler 80

In a South Region semifinals group that included North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA, Butler was very much the odd program out, at least in terms of historical prestige. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they also appeared outclassed on the court Friday, as UNC got out to a sizable early lead and coasted to a stress-free win.

The top-seeded tar Heels got a bounce-back game from Joel Berry II, who had struggled in the first two rounds but who posted 26 points against Butler on 8-of-13 shooting. Teammate Justin Jackson added 24 points, while the Bulldogs were led by Andrew Chrabascz’s 21.

Tournament essentials

Interactive bracket: We’ve got historical data unlike anything else out there

Elite Eight spread picks: Can Kansas keep it going?

The NCAA title game is guaranteed to have at least one team that isn’t a blue blood

Stop judging conferences based on two weeks of March Madness. Just stop it.

More March Madness

West Coast bias: Oregon returns to Final Four for first time since 1939

Gonzaga breaks through at last, earns first-ever trip to Final Four

Jenkins: Sleep is elusive, but glory is not for Florida hero Chris Chiozza

De’Aaron Fox’s record-breaking Sweet 16 placed him among Kentucky’s greats

Florida’s OT buzzer-beater stuns Wisconsin in game of the tournament

South Carolina turns Madison Square Garden into a bully pulpit in rout of Baylor

In a clash of blue-bloods, Kentucky pulls past UCLA

Tar Heels blitz Butler as Maye emerges as a three-point threat

Culpepper: Final Four ticket awaits Kansas-Oregon winner. Something mournful in store for the loser.

Gonzaga and Xavier, college basketball kindred spirits, square off for Final Four spot

Jenkins: South Carolina is like Cinderella — if she came to NCAA ball with brass knuckles